Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Hull City 2 Blackburn Rovers 0

It's never easy being a Hull City fan. You've won two home games on the spin, you've finally found a goal poacher and you're second in the Championship table. Do you get to sit and enjoy it? Do you hell. You get this Huddersfield fiasco thanks to West Yorkshire plod and the news that your best player is probably out for the season. What a flaming life.

Thankfully we got back to the actual football tonight. On the pitch at least, it's still going great. Blackburn Rovers, fresh from an FA Cup giant killing win at Arsenal, arrived in confident mood. Something tells me they're not so confident now. We didn't just beat them; we dominated them. It looked a tough game on paper. I didn't speak to anyone all day who didn't say "I'll settle for a point". And we took them to the cleaners. But for two wonderful, wonderful saves, the scoreline might have reflected the game.

Tigers 3-5-2: [G] Stockdale [D] Chester, Hobbs, Bruce [M] Elmohamady, Brady, Evans, Quinn, Meyler [F] Koren, Gedo.

So Robert Koren was restored to the starting line-up after Bruce masterfully rested him at the weekend. Evans replaced the injured McShane with Bruce dropping into defence. The visitors, chock full of big names (at this level anyway), started brightly, controlled possession for the first five minutes, forced a corner and Kazim Kazim-Kazim forced a good stop from Stockdale with a low drive. That may well be the last time I mention Stockdale, sorry if that spoils the result!

We took control after that and aside from the 5-10 minutes before half time when Blackburn successfully killed the game with their fouling and feigning injury, we dominated the rest of the half. David Meyler floated a lovely ball in behind to Quinn who'd peeled away at the back post but Dann beat Gedo to Quinn's knock-back. Four corners followed in quick succession but Blackburn defended them competently. A one-two with Quinn then released Brady who stayed composed and drilled a terrific cross between 'keeper and Koren who failed to get a touch. A deflected Brady effort forced a sixth corner as City pinned Blackburn back. The first of Kean's terrific saves followed. Another City corner was cleared to Koren on the left, he whipped in a wonderful ball to the near post where Meyler, free as a bird, nodded inside the post only for Kean to fling himself across and tip it round for a corner.

Blackburn decided their best bet after that was to kill the game and weak refereeing allowed them to waste our time. Kazim-Kazim took offence to Bruce's innocuous boot up his arse and started mouthing off. Somehow both players ended up with a telling off despite the Blackburn man showing a ridiculous level of aggression for such a non-incident. Kazim-Kazim then backed into Hobbs and sent him hurtling out of the air onto his head, earning a yellow. Orr was also booked for hauling down Brady in the corner. The referee, Mr. D. Murphy, lost his head. Hanley tripped himself up allowing Koren a run on goal but from fully 40 yards away, the ref awarded a free-kick for a trip he couldn't have seen. With half-time approaching, Kazim-Kazim decided the best way to remove Meyler from his back was to Judo throw him to the ground. The ref consulted his superior, Mr. D. Murphy, and decided a warning would suffice. Rubbish.

Half time. Chap next to me mentions that Gedo has barely had a kick. I concur but suggest he only needs one? In his defence, he'd had one more kick than Jordan Rhodes.

City started the second half well. David Meyler had another excellent game. His running with the ball and ability to get it to Elmo in space caused them all sorts of problems. Corry Evans had a slow start with two hiccups in the first five minutes but was terrific thereafter. The defence pressed Blackburn quickly at every opportunity, took on everything in the air and didn't give them a moment to think or a half-inch to work in. It really was a terrific foundation for us to go on and win the game. Olsson went into the book for fouling Elmo who'd skinned him on the right but the free-kick came to nothing. The next set piece was more eventful. Brady's right wing corner was cleared as far as Quinn. He turned down the opportunity to shoot, to a few moans and groans, and ran at Rekik. Just when everyone thought Quinny was going to go around him, he hit an early, almost-reverse cross with his left foot across the face of goal. It went over Koren's head and fell perfectly for Gedo to tap in at the far post [1-0]. He won't score many easier. He might not score many more important. The ball in was just beautiful though; begging to be put into the net. "See" I told my neighbour in the East Stand "One kick."

Blackburn prepared DJ Campbell, much to the delight of the home fans. Blackburn had a bit of fun earlier with "DJ Campbell, he's gone for his lunch". Now we responded with "Campbell, Campbell, What's the score?". While they were preparing the sub, Lee Williamson injured himself taking Brady out off the ball. The ref hilariously showed him a yellow while he was on the stretcher. Harsh. Blackburn replaced him with David Bentley. Remember him? Campbell replaced Rekik. You wouldn't have known he was on the pitch. The subs didn't affect the game in the slightest. Within minutes Jack Hobbs met Brady's low corner and forced another stunning save from Kean. This one was at a comfortable height but showed great reactions. It didn't keep us out for long. Before we could start to get nervous about the one goal lead, we doubled it. Evans switched play to Brady, he ran at Bentley, turned back on his right foot and, when you thought he'd ley it back to Quinn, delivered a pearler of a cross with his right foot beyond the far post where Elmo was waiting to volley back across the statuesque 'keeper and inside the post [2-0]. Elmo, like Gedo, celebrated in the empty South-West corner. We need to get some fans in there. Call it "Cairo corner" or "Al Ahly Alley" or something. 10% off if you wear a Fez? Let's have some imagination!

Despite there being more than 20 minutes left, that was the end of the action. City played the game out in truly professional style. We made the right subs at the right time, though the final one 5 seconds from the end of stoppage time was a bit pointless. We kept the ball well, frustrating the visitors and we barely gave them a sniff of goal. One rare mistake saw Stockdale kick the ball poorly straight to DJ Campbell. He mis-controlled it, then recovered it and passed it into touch. Right in front of the East Stand who serenaded him with a lovely verse of "How deep is your love". Or "WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY!" Olofinjana replaced Evans, Cairney came on for Gedo and then Fathi replaced Koren in stoppage time. Not a bad days work for Fathi if he's on appearance money.

So that was that. Wandering out of the stadium among happy, smiling faces. Learning Leicester and Cardiff had lost. Hearing Watford had won again. That one worries me. Watford are in superb form. They're like the Hull City of 2008. They don't fear anyone at the moment. Until they meet Hull and Cardiff in consecutive games in early April, they have a run of very winnable games. If we're in front of them on April 3rd, this is our season.

Elmo picked up the Man of the Match in the ground. He was terrific tonight. Aside from Gedo and Stockdale who were pretty quiet, everyone was. And I don't care if Gedo sleeps in the stand for for 85 minutes a game if he wants to keep poaching winning goals! Jack Hobbs was a colossus. Chester and Bruce didn't panic all night. Bruce made a super challenge on Bentley at the death to deny Blackburn so much as a consolation. Quinn showed real quality to go with the ever-present endeavor. Koren looked lively again thanks to his rest and linked the play nicely.

We played the team I thought would finish 2nd this season tonight. On Saturday it's off to the Reebok to play the team I predicted would be first! I hope they're as poor as Blackburn were. I hope we're as good as we were tonight.

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